Work Search Wisdom: From Rejection to Realization

Work Search Wisdom: From Rejection to Realization

By: Jennifer Gutzmann
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With a semester of co-op experience, I figured finding my next work term would be a breeze. After all, now I had relevant office experience to add to all the volunteer and part-time work on my resume. Unfortunately, I was mistaken. I didn’t get hired on a work term, and while my story comes from a co-op standpoint, what I learned is relevant and important for anyone looking for work.

I figured this seeking semester would be a breeze – after all, I had a good amount of experience, and pretty well-written application documents. Without doubt, I’d have a second co-op in no time. Well, the months passed, and I still didn’t have an offer. Sure, I got a nice number of interviews thanks to my strong resume and cover letter. I’m even confident I was a strong interviewee, based on feedback I’ve received from others in the past.

Still, no offers. So what was I doing wrong? When I followed up with my advisors and coordinators in an effort to get some feedback, I was rather surprised and confused about what I learned.

I realized that I had been falling into two different traps: I was either a very promising candidate, but simply lacked directly applicable experience; or the recruiters had liked everything I’d done but just didn’t think I was the right “fit.” I learned that even if I did everything right in the application process, and had lots of experience on my resume, there was no guaranteed job waiting for me right away.

It might be the same for you. If you didn’t get that job you really wanted, the reasons might be completely out of your immediate control: you can’t instantly gain experience you don’t have, and you certainly can’t change who you are. Simply put, it’s a buyer’s market: there’s heavy competition for students and new graduates, and companies can afford to be very picky on who they select.  I don’t want to discourage looking for jobs right now; rather, I hope that this can help you to avoid obsessing over why you didn’t get an offer, or stressing out about what you did wrong.

No matter what happens, never give up. If you can’t find the paid work you want, think outside the box for alternatives. Can you work towards your goal by volunteering part-time to gain the direct experience you’re missing? How about taking on a less related role that would develop some transferrable skills? There are more possibilities than you might think, and Career Services and Volunteer Services on campus can help you learn where to start, both on and off campus.

Seventeen applications, seven interviews, and zero co-op placements later, I ended up taking classes and volunteering with two positions on campus. You might imagine that I would be pretty depressed about all the rejections and failures I experienced, but I managed to stay positive throughout the process! If I learned anything from this, it’s to avoid getting emotionally attached to a job possibility when the outcome is still uncertain. At the end of the day, you don’t know what’s going to happen, so why hop onto an emotional rollercoaster?

Jennifer is a Career Peer Educator at SFU Career Services, and a fourth-year business student pursuing a career in Human Resources. She loves being with people, and wants to do something to help others.

Posted on February 02, 2012